EAMC Emergency Director says ER seeing high volumes

Published 7:45 am Thursday, August 26, 2021

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 spreads, emergency rooms and intensive care units across Alabama are struggling to keep up with surges of COVID-19 patients. Last week, NPR reported that Alabama hospitals had run out of ICU beds due to the virus.

Last Tuesday, East Alabama Health shared that the ER of its Opelika location was filled to capacity, as was the ER ambulance bay. In a photo, paramedics sat on the back of an ambulance, waiting for a bed to be available for their patient in the ER.

“This patient traffic jam keeps the out-of-town ambulances sidelined and unable to respond to other emergencies in their own communities,” EAH explained. “While EAMC is accustomed to ambulances bringing patients from neighboring counties, a lot of the ones arriving now are doing so because many hospitals in our region and state are on diversion. That means those hospitals have no capacity, and so ambulances bypass them to get to a hospital that is not on diversion.”

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In an interview on Wednesday, emergency room manager Melanie Mooney from EAMC-Lanier in Valley explained the state of the emergency room there.

While she doesn’t think it’s likely that her location will go on diversion any time soon, she said the emergency room is very busy.

“Our volumes are higher than they’ve ever been,” she said. “Our wait times are higher because of the volume. Probably half of our patients are COVID-related, but we’re still seeing non-COVID emergencies, too. So that contributes to the higher wait times. We’re seeing record numbers.”

Mooney said COVID-19 was the main factor behind the high volumes and that they had been high for four to five weeks.

Though the hospital has been sending patients to other hospitals’ intensive care units, Mooney explained that her hospital doesn’t have one of its own.

“Anyone that needs ICU care or ventilators or anything like that, we have to send out,” she said.

Out of the three EAMC locations, Mooney said the Opelika location was the busiest because they have more beds available.

“Here at Lanier in the freestanding ER, we only have 10 to 12 beds available,” she said.

Fortunately, Mooney said her emergency room isn’t seeing more COVID-related deaths than usual.

She said that many patients are coming to the emergency room to be tested for COVID-19.

“I don’t want to deter anyone from coming to the emergency room, but if they just want to be COVID-tested, we have a testing site in Opelika,” Mooney said.

The number she shared for getting a test is (334) 528-4YOU.

“They’re open Monday through Friday, and all you have to do is call, and they’ll schedule a test,” Mooney said